Seven Literary Hotel Suites and the Writers who Occupied Them

Fri, 31 May 2019

Bed down with some of history’s greatest writers – from Oscar Wilde to Rudyard Kipling – at the hotels they raved about, wrote about and even died in.

Where: Campi ya Kanzi, Kenya

Who: Ernest Hemingway
Why visit: Hemingway’s 1935 book Green Hills of Africa immortalised Kenya’s landscape and so today Campi ya Kanzi Kenya has returned the favour. The camp contains a Hemingway Suite – fitted with king-size bed and gargantuan mosquito net – among its seven thatched guesthouses.

Where: The Balmoral, Edinburgh

Who: J.K. Rowling
Why visit: With turret-style alcoves and views over Calton Hill, it’s no surprise that The Balmoral inspired the Harry Potter author to write. In this now eponymously named suite, J.K. Rowling finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Potterheads will be keen to know that the room contains a marble bust of Grecian god Hermes (signed by the author) and boasts an owl-shaped brass door knocker to match.

Where: Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

Who: Somerset Maugham
Why visit: Trawl along the Mandarin Oriental’s Authors’ Wing and you’ll pass by suites commemorating literary greats including Noël Coward, Somerset Maugham, James Michener and Joseph Conrad. The common thread? They all sought inspiration on the hectic streets of the Thai capital. If we were to single out one suite to stay at it would be that dedicated to Somerset Maugham – the majestic red and hot pink four-poster bed is a real deal cincher.

Where: Belmond Reid’s Palace, Madeira

Who: George Bernard Shaw
Why visit: George Bernard Shaw stayed at this pink palace for two months after having been persuaded by his wife Charlotte to go to Madeira in December 1924 – a place where there were “flowers, sunshine, bathing and no theatres” – whiling their time playing tennis and tangoeing on the lawn. Guests can follow in step with the Shaws (although perhaps a couple of months is a bit of a push) and stay in the playwright and activist’s eponymous suite, decorated with Chinese hand-painted wallpaper and silk curtains.

Where: The Renwick Hotel, New York

Who: Gertrude Stein
Why visit: Known for the famous literary and artistic figures who once stayed here, The Renwick Hotel has literati-inspired suites that were, for too long, named after male writers only. Then the Gertrude Stein suite was added to the 10th floor. While much of Stein’s life was spent in Paris, she had a soft spot for New York – and a particular fondness for the city’s skyscrapers. Check in to her eponymous four-room suite and you’ll note the large abstract rug in blue (the author’s favourite colour) as well as stacks of books by Stein and frequenters of her Parisian salons

Where: Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Who: Rudyard Kipling
Why visit: Rudyard Kipling, the winner of the 1907 Nobel Prize in Literature, advised those travelling to Singapore, to “feed at Raffles”. The hotel, surrounded by lush gardens, is perhaps best known for its famous Singapore Sling cocktails (we’ll take ours in the Long Bar), and while Rudyard’s recommendation might have been for the restaurant, the rooms are nothing to sniff at. Each of its 103 suites – one of which is named after Rudyard Kipling – deal in old-world opulence.

Where: L’Hotel, Paris

Who: Oscar Wilde
Why visit: Situated in the fashionable St Germain-des-Prés district of Paris, exuberant rooms are par for the course in these parts. Room 16, where Oscar Wilde spent his last days (he never paid his final bill, an item which is now displayed in room), is swathed in rich velvets and has been refurbished in a flamboyant Victorian style befitting of the poet and playwright.

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